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Question from an Audio Masterclass student: “Is it possible to make an effective vocal booth out of mattresses?”
Often with any question, there is a 'pre-question' that needs to be answered first. In this case it is, “Why does a studio need a vocal booth?”
There are two answers to this. One is that when you record a band, it is usual to record the basic tracks and lead vocal together. The vocal will be regarded as a 'guide vocal' and re-recorded later. It is important though for the band to hear the vocal as they will play better.
In this case the singer is in a vocal booth so there is no risk that their voice will leak into any of the other microphones. If it does, it will be difficult or impossible to remove later on.
When the singer is singing alone, to previously recorded tracks on headphones, then it is important to have the right acoustic environment to record in. You could record out in the studio, but the studio acoustic would be imprinted onto the vocal track. This limits what the engineer can do to modify the sound of the vocal. It is better therefore that the vocal is recorded in a very dry acoustic, which is where the vocal booth is useful.
So, to satisfy both of these requirements, the vocal booth should be soundproofed, with a dry acoustic.
Actually, it doesn't need all that much soundproofing, and if it is made from a couple of layers of 18 mm particle board, that will be fine.
Internally it is conventional to use foam tiles, but mattresses would work just as well.
In conclusion – the answer is a long-winded way of saying yes!